Advertisement
  1. Bucs

Deflategate: NFL sued over Brady ban; Pats QB defends self; owner slams NFL

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks at a press conference at Gillette Stadium Wednesday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kraft addressed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to uphold a four game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady for his role in using underinflated balls in the AFC Championship game in 2014. [Darren McCollester/Getty Images]
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks at a press conference at Gillette Stadium Wednesday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kraft addressed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to uphold a four game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady for his role in using underinflated balls in the AFC Championship game in 2014. [Darren McCollester/Getty Images]
Published Jul. 30, 2015

Tom Brady took the fight over his Deflategate suspension to social media and federal court Wednesday, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft backed the three-time Super Bowl MVP, saying "I was wrong to put my faith in the league."

One day after commissioner Roger Goodell rejected Brady's appeal, the quarterback posted a 507-word statement on Facebook with his firmest denial yet, writing: "I did nothing wrong."

Kraft followed with an unscheduled address to the media gathered at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., for the opening of training camp and the team's defense of its fourth Super Bowl championship.

"It is completely incomprehensible to me that the league continues to take steps to disparage one of its all-time great players, and a man for whom I have the utmost respect," Kraft said. "I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just."

Just before the courts closed in Minnesota, the NFL Players Association asked the federal court to overturn Brady's four-game suspension, or at least put it on hold until the case can be heard. The union asked the court to throw out the suspension before Sept. 4; that would keep Brady from missing any practices before the Patriots' Sept. 10 season opener against the Steelers.

"We need to free him up for that first week," union attorney Jeffrey Kessler told the Associated Press. "We don't believe this discipline can ever be sustained."

The lawsuit argues that the NFL made up its rules as it went along and misapplied the ones on the books. Kessler called it "offensive" that the league accused Brady of destroying his cellphone to obstruct the investigation, one of Goodell's contentions in upholding the suspension Tuesday.

"We believe they highlighted this issue solely to inflame the public, to suggest there is some secret information being withheld, and that's wrong," Kessler said. "It's an unfair character assassination of a player who has done nothing but be a model citizen for this league."

Brady defended the cellphone swap on Facebook: "To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong. There is no 'smoking gun' and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing."

Brady was suspended four games and the Patriots were docked $1 million and two draft picks in May for what a league investigation found was a scheme to provide improperly inflated footballs for last season's AFC Championship Game against the Colts. Investigator Ted Wells zeroed in on two equipment managers — one who called himself "The Deflator" — and said Brady was "at least generally aware" of the scheme.

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter

We’ll deliver a roundup of news and commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Kraft said the Patriots did nothing wrong, but the team fired the two equipment managers. He said he didn't fight the team's penalty because he thought the league would go easy on Brady.

Now, he said, he regrets his decision. "I truly believe that what I did in May … would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately, I was wrong," Kraft said, apologizing to the team's fans and to Brady. "The league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the … footballs."

Kraft said the team turned over every cellphone not belonging to a player, including coach Bill Belichick's. The powerful owner, who has been one of Goodell's most loyal allies, said the league stating that Brady trashed his phone to obstruct the investigation was just the latest in a series of statements and leaks that "intentionally implied nefarious behavior" where there was none.

"Tom Brady is a person of great integrity and is a great ambassador of the game, both on and off the field," Kraft said.

Brady, who had earlier denied cheating accusations with the tepid "I don't think so," more forcefully defended himself in the Facebook post, saying he cooperated with the investigation except when doing so would have set a bad precedent for his union brethren.

Brady said he replaced his broken phone only after his lawyers told league investigators they couldn't have it. "Most importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at any time, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January," he wrote.

The post was liked by 51,000 people — including his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen — in the first 30 minutes after it was posted. By the time the lawsuit was filed at 6 p.m., the number was 250,000.

The latest Deflategate developments were the talk of the league Wednesday as teams continued to report to training camps. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he wouldn't comment directly on them or on Kraft's latest remarks, but he did say, "Let me really emphasize how much I endorse our commissioner. … He is doing an outstanding job."

At the training camp of Patriots division rival Jets, cornerback Darrelle Revis, a former Buc, said, "The league, they did what they had to do; they feel it's the best way to handle the situation."

In Scarborough, Maine, police said they received a request from the NFL on Tuesday to keep a close eye on a $6.5 million home Goodell owns on the peninsula of Prouts Neck, south of Portland.

"In the past, when there have been unpopular decisions, there have been emails and things," Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton told the Portland Press Herald. "I wouldn't say it rose to the level of threats, but certainly expressing unhappiness."

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge